Give students right environment unencumbered by tenure, union

2014-07-02T08:00:00Z Give students right environment unencumbered by tenure, unionGuest column by FRED CARL missoulian.com
July 02, 2014 8:00 am  • 

Recently, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled that California’s tough teacher-tenure laws are unconstitutional.

His ruling is based on a 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that tenure laws infringed on a student’s right to an equal education. Educators are now concerned that their lucrative “impregnable” contracts may be jeopardized.

Karen Moses, Montana Education Association employee and former Billings school board trustee, said, “It gives more fuel to the fire to those who’d like to dismantle (tenure),” which “could be a distraction to real problems.”

Ms. Moses, open your eyes and realize the real problems in education are tenure, the MEA union and Common Core. It is evident that our educational system has greatly deteriorated over the years. Here are the results from a major study conducted in 2010 of 470,000 15-year-olds in

65 countries, taken by the Program for International Student Assessment. The United States ranked No. 14 in reading, No. 25 in math and No. 17 in science.

Adding to Moses’ statement, Scott McCulloch, president of the Billings Education Association, said tenure protects teachers from “arbitrary” firing. Mr. McCulloch, in the real world firings happen, and some may be unfair or uncalled for. But we’re talking about education, and trying to achieve a desired goal, which is not being met. We must figure out where and what the problems are, and then correct them.

If our country is going to again be the envy of the world, it will have to be rebuilt by today’s students. That requires teachers who are capable, and willing, to actually teach. You pointed out that teachers go through a three-year probationary period before they are awarded tenure, during which time they are evaluated twice a year.

So what you are saying is that teachers are passing their twice a year evaluation and granted tenure, yet statistics reveal we continue to have an inadequate educational system. So Mr. McCulloch, where does the failure lie? Is it with the school administrators; with the evaluation process; with the inability on the part of the teachers; with an inadequate college education prior to becoming teachers; with the lack of discipline, or with laws restricting the ability to discipline? Where, and with whom, does the failure to properly educate lie? Maybe it’s the Legislature not enacting stringent legislation requiring certain results, or giving the board of education the authority to enact rules as they see fit.

Many wonder if our students can learn and absorb more than they are presently given. The answer – yes they can!

The following examples show the difference between public education and private school education, where the teachers don’t have tenure or a union. The intent here is to show that students can, and will, learn more when placed in a proper educational environment. These examples are my personal experience.

I grew up in Buffalo New York, and my younger brother and I had the benefit of attending a private day school even though our father had died when I was 14. In New York state all public school students had to take, and pass, a regents exam in each course before moving up to next year’s level. (Going from Spanish I into Spanish II.) We on the other hand took a regents Spanish II final to move into the second semester, accomplishing in half a year when public school students were taking two years.

Next, as a freshman at Purdue, I took biology and it covered the same material I had in high school. So students can do the work if they are required to, and if they have good teachers. I had mentioned the above facts in a previous Missoulian column, and a lady said surely the students had to meet a certain IQ requirement to be admitted. That lady has a low opinion of Montana students.

We were just ordinary kids and accepted what was expected of us. And those of us who participated in sports had to have at least a “C” in each course every week, or we did not play that week. Yes, the teachers reported weekly grades for each student athlete.

Montana students can, and will, achieve more if we create the proper environment. We are handing them a tremendous mess, so let’s at least provide a better education, unencumbered by tenure and an obstructionist union.

Fred Carl of Missoula is a former Montana state senator.

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(9) Comments

  1. ChuckStonz
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    ChuckStonz - July 16, 2014 3:46 pm
    I don't see your point. You imply that the only reason teachers put up with "cruddy resources, mouthy brats crowded classrooms and kids with no attention span" is because tenure is in their contract. If tenure were the only thing attracting teachers to their profession, then it would be full of people who do not want to be fired for any reason, i.e. lazy, under-performing dolts. We both know that the lot of teachers we have is most certainly NOT a complete bunch of lazy ne'er-do-wells. Why can't we move to a model where the pay, benefits, and pride in work will be the impetus for attracting and retaining the best teachers.
  2. Gustave
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    Gustave - July 04, 2014 1:09 pm
    Because trying to find way to address poverty is Socialism? Please enlighten me as to how you have come to this assumption. Throwing around Fox News catch phrases do not solve any societal problems. If you could think for yourself, you might realize this.
  3. claudius
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    claudius - July 04, 2014 12:48 pm
    @Larry - The change most likely to improve children's learning would be a change in the home environment.
  4. Larry Lewis
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    Larry Lewis - July 04, 2014 8:44 am
    Fred is correct. The other posters all seem like occupy types whining about social "justice"(socialism). I'm constantly amazed at how little my kids learned in public school. We need a change.
  5. claudius
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    claudius - July 03, 2014 12:23 pm
    If you look closely at the demands for school "reform" and the determined drive to privatize public schools, you see a lot of vague platitudes about "improving quality", "judging by results", "accountability", "improving the student experience", and on and on.

    But, when you look behind those platitudes, most of the demonization of tenure comes from people who want to be able to re-shape the curricula to favor religious dogma and extremist political ideology, and teachers without tenure are much more vulnerable to that. The "reform" fundamentally rejects any notion of fostering critical or creative thinking, in favor of rote learning and "teaching to the test." The relentless push to turn over public resources and favored treatment to private, for-profit entities is done in the name of "student progress", but growing volumes of research show conclusively that the only real, concrete results are ..... enormous, guaranteed profits for the for-profit private entities.

    I think it may be a very good thing for Montana's young people that Mr Carl's identification line reads former Montana state senator.
  6. missionmouth
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    missionmouth - July 03, 2014 11:36 am
    While it is reasonable to have a mechanism to override seniority systems when people no longer perform, you cannot expect to draw and retain good quality people to education if you cannot protect them from the vagaries of poor management. Having worked in an institution that prepared school administrators, I believe they are as often the problem as teachers. And I can think of a few school boards that have been nepotistic, irrational and ill informed. Teachers get it from all sides and are seldom recognized for how well they do with cruddy resources, mouthy brats, crowded classrooms and kids with no attention span. Oh, yeah, and a world full of people who have never taught who "know" all there is to know about it.

    Want to fix American schools? Put more emphasis on supporting families so parents are not working two or more jobs and turn off the idiot box. Leave it on too long and you get to thinking that anyone who ever gave you a poor grade for poor performance deserves to be fired.
  7. BR
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    BR - July 02, 2014 4:59 pm
    Fred, let me suggest you return to Purdue and take a history of education course and an educational research course where you will learn that the most narrow education is not the best education, nor is the US habit of parents bashing the public schools an insignificant factor in why it is only in states like Montana where we educate students to their potential to compete with the world.
  8. Gustave
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    Gustave - July 02, 2014 1:58 pm
    There are some issues that need to be considered. The old argument of low American worldwide rankings which are used again and again do not tell the whole story. First, the standing of American Education is not "deteriorating." It has, in fact, this ranking risen since the 1960's. Second, these ranking have been shown to have no impact on economic output. There is no connection between the strength of a country's economy and the ranking on these tests. While some countries advocate memorization of formulas and facts, American education emphasizes creativity and critical thinking. These are things that are impossible to test, but they are very important to the a country's economy(especially since you can't outsource creativity). In creativity, America stand out over every other country in the world. This is evidenced by the fact that America has produced more patents per a million people than anyone else in the world.

    These test are a very inaccurate way to determine actual knowledge. Students in Korea and other countries view this test as a way to honor their country and often try hard. American high school seniors often see this test as something they have to do that has no impact on their grades or acceptance into college. Because of this, they put little to no effort into taking this test. For this reason alone, it is difficult to take these tests seriously as a real indicator of knowledge. Also, it is also unfair to lump every state together when it comes to international rankings. Certain international tests find that when individual state compete against international standards, many states rank towards the top(even above many top systems in the world). Montana schools do not deserve to be lumped in with inner-city schools from states with ineffective school systems. Montana has great schools and getting rid of tenure won't fix any issues.

    Schools could always do better, but they aren't the only factor that influences achievement. The biggest influence on achievement seems to be poverty. If wage inequality continues to skyrocket, then achievement will go down in our schools. It feels to me that these attacks on tenure are a way to distract from the growing inequality between the richest and poorest Americans.
  9. XFSME
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    XFSME - July 02, 2014 1:43 pm
    Fred I’ve got to give your essay on teacher tenure an F. False equivalencies and narrow anecdotal experiences do not make compelling arguments. It’s as if you’ve reverted to your 2004 campaign and once again you’re misrepresenting facts. The truth of the matter is that poverty and disingenuous “reform” efforts create and exacerbate inequities in public education.
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